I’m in the middle of a five part blog series called “Finding Hope when Your Future is Unfinished”.
Click here for Part 1: The Ending Will Be Good
Click here for Part 2 : Moving From Lament to Hope
Click here for Part 3: Getting to Know the Who of Hope
Part 4: For when Life is Completely Out of Your Control
Life can turn upside down in one heartbeat.
April 13, 2015 during my morning quiet time, I journaled:
“Father, I worship You. You are the Great I AM – the beginning and the end – the Creator of all, perfect Love, fullness of joy.”
I continued on, thanking God for the calling to serve the women at NEPC as Women’s Director (I had been in the ministry role for six months).
I proclaimed the Message paraphrase of Ephesians 3:20 in all caps:
“GOD CAN DO ANYTHING YOU KNOW – FAR MORE THAN I COULD EVER IMAGINE OR GUESS OR REQUEST IN MY WILDEST DREAMS!”
I was on a “mountain top”! I remember in those days feeling so excited for all the ways God was moving and the possibilities that were ahead. I prayed about selling our home, for the heartbeat of our family, for ministry vision.
Eight days later, one flip of the journal page, and the heading is “cancer”.
In the flip of one journal page, I went from on top of the world to standing in the middle of the swirling hurricane of a cancer diagnosis. I went from a healthy 35 year old to a cancer patient who had a life threatening illness multiplying within. I was catapulted into a chaotic world I’d never known, and the simple joys and frustrations of regular life seemed a million miles away.
April 22, 2015 – the day after being told I had breast cancer, I prayed:
“Lord, I do not know what the days ahead hold. I am scared. I am sad. I am still in shock. But I know You are with me. I know that I am not alone….I have tasted and seen that You are good.”
I remember those first few days after being diagnosed with breast cancer in 2015. We were scheduling numerous doctors appointments and scans. Managing the communication of my illness to people who loved me felt like a full time job. I was beginning to process the news myself, as well as share the news with others. I was scared feelings would get hurt if someone found out before someone else…and how would we tell the children? What did the future hold for Team Turner?
My tidy, controlled existence was now shattered, and the future went from clear and exciting to dark and foggy.
Chances are, we will all experience a life-altering moment like this. If it hasn’t happened yet, it probably will. So what do we DO when we are thrown into chaos and our life is complete out of our control?
We get a clue from Psalm 107: 23-30
The Psalmist describes people who “saw the deeds of the Lord”.
Some went down to the sea in ships,
doing business on the great waters;
they saw the deeds of the Lord,
his wondrous works in the deep
They were on a spiritual mountaintop! But in a moment, everything changed.
For he commanded and raised the stormy wind,
which lifted up the waves of the sea.
They mounted up to heaven; they went down to the depths;
their courage melted away in their evil plight;
they reeled and staggered like drunken men
and were at their wits’ end.
Seemingly out of nowhere a storm comes. Instead of seeing God, they saw the waves and their “evil plight”.
But look what happens next:
Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble,
and he delivered them from their distress.
He made the storm be still,
and the waves of the sea were hushed.
Then they were glad that the waters were quiet,
and he brought them to their desired haven.
In the middle of the swirling storm, the crashing waves, the chaos, they cried to the Lord in their trouble.
When life is catapulted into chaos, the one thing we can do is cry out to the Lord.
So what does crying out to the Lord look like for me personally? There are many ways people cry out to the Lord, but most often this is what it looks like in my life. The three things I need:
My Bible, A Journal, A Pen.
When I’m in an “out of control” situation, it’s easy for me to focus on the circumstances. I must intentionally get quiet before the Lord so that I can begin to fix my eyes back on Him.
When I enter into a time of solitude and prayer, I am reminded that even when I feel in control, I’m not. Crying out is purposeful, intentional engagement with the One who is writing my unfinished story. This cry of desperation puts me in a posture of humility as I acknowledge that there is a good God who IS in control, and that I can trust Him.
Prayer reminds us that we are not in control. Prayer resets our gaze on the One who is.
The best antidote to fear is faith. One way to grow our faith is through prayer.
Today I’m sharing a very practical three step prayer strategy that has helped me when fear overwhelms me. A desire to be in control is rooted in fear: fear that if we don’t control the situation an undesired outcome will occur. The temptation is to numb the fear with distraction (social media, entertainment, busyness, food, etc etc), but those are only temporarily quiet the fear. The only way I’ve found to move from fear to faith is to apply God’s truth to the root cause of my fear.
I frequently journal my prayers because it grows my faith to be able to look back and see how God has moved in the circumstance, or moved in my heart giving me peace.
“…casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you”
1 Peter 5:7
Here’s an example of a journaling page I did last week. This feels very vulnerable to post,but I’m praying that it may help someone move from fear to faith. The root fear I am fighting with God’s word is the possibility that I might not be healed this side of heaven: that the cancer may return once more.
When life feels out of control:
1-I attempt to identify and name my fear and write it down in a journal (left side, top in above image).
2-On the adjacent page (right hand side), I find scripture that directly speaks to that fear. I write out the verses. These are God’s promises! If you are unfamiliar with the Bible, a simple google search or a good bible concordance can help.
3-Finally, I write out a prayer (left side, bottom), weaving in those precious Scriptures. Another benefit to writing it down is that I can go back to it when the fear sneaks its way back into my heart!
After spending time quiet with the Lord and His truth, hope floods my soul as I’m reminded that my ultimate hope is Jesus. He endured the ultimate chaos for me, so that I could seek refuge in Him during the storms of life that WILL come.
Then, and only then, am I able to rest my soul in God’s steadfast love.
Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love,
for his wondrous works to the children of man!
Let them extol him in the congregation of the people,
and praise him in the assembly of the elders.
When your life feels out of control, what practical ways do you move from fear to faith?